Broadbasing and Deepening the Bond Market in India
R. H. Patil
At the time of its independence in 1947 India had only the traditional commercial banks, all with private sector ownership. Like the typical commercial banks in other parts of the world, all banks in India were also not keen to provide medium and long-term finance to industry and other sectors for their fixed asset formation. The banks were willing to fund basically the working capital requirements of the credit-worthy borrowers on the security of tangible assets. Since the government was keen to stimulate setting up of a wide range of new industrial units as also expansion/diversification of the existing units it decided to encourage setting up of financial intermediaries that provided term finance to projects in industry. Thus emerged a well-knit structure of national and state level development financial institutions (DFIs) for meeting requirements of medium and long-term finance of all range of industrial units, from the smallest to the very large ones. Reserve Bank of India (the central banking institutions of the country) and Government of India nurtured DFIS through various types of financial incentives and other supportive measures. The main objective of all these measures was to provide much needed long-term finance to the industry, which the then existing commercial banks were not keen to provide because of the fear of asset-liability mismatch. Since deposits with the banks were mainly short/medium term, extending term loans was considered by the banks to be relatively risky. The five-year development plans envisaged rapid growth of domestic industry even in the private sector to support the import substitution growth model adopted by the national planners. To encourage investment in industry, a conscious policy decision was taken that the DFIs should provide term-finance mainly to the private sector at interest rates that were lower than those applicable to working capital or any other short-term loans. In the early years of the post-Independence period, shortages of various commodities tended to make trading in commodities a more profitable proposition than investment in industry, which carried higher risk. Partly to correct this imbalance, the conscious policy design was to increase attractiveness of long-term investment in industry and infrastructure through relatively lower interest rates. To enable term-lending institutions to finance industry at concessional rates, Government and RBI gave them access to low cost funds. They were allowed to issue bonds with government guarantee, given funds through the budget and RBI allocated sizeable part of RBI's National Industrial Credit (Long Term Operations) funds to Industrial Development Bank of India, the large DFI of the country. Through an appropriate RBI fiat, the turf of the DFIs was also protected, until recently, by keeping commercial banks away from extending large sized term loans to industrial units. Banks were expected to provide small term loans to small-scale industrial units on a priority basis.
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